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Here’s How Steam’s New Family Sharing Works

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Steam has had family sharing for a while, but it’s always been a little bit frustrating to use and had far too many limitations. Now, Steam owner Valve has started rolling out Steam Families, which will ultimately replace its existing Steam family sharing.

Steam Families lets you and up to five family members effectively combine your Steam libraries, allowing anybody within the family group to play games owned by anybody else within the group. Valve says that once you’re in a group, you’ll automatically gain access to other games, and you’ll be able to create your own saved games, earn your own achievements, and have separate lists of workshop files.

Unlike previous family sharing features in Steam, you’ll be able to play others’ games within your family group without needing that person to be offline. Previously, if you wanted to play a game owned by somebody else in your family sharing group, that person couldn’t also be playing a game online — leading to some very frustrating situations.

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There are some caveats, of course. If only one person in the family owns a game, two people can’t be playing it at the same time, you’ll need multiple copies of the game to do that.

You’ll also be banned from joining a new family group for a whole year if you leave one, meaning you won’t be able to hop around to play your friends’ games. The feature is also intended for a household, but testing from Steam users suggests that you should be able to add anyone whose billing country is the same as the family group owner.

On top of all that, there are a number of features to help parents manage libraries and purchases with their children. One of those features is kind of neat, too, as it allows kids to request a parent buy a game, letting the parent choose whether or not to fulfill it in an easy interface. We imagine these features won’t be used quite as much as game sharing, but it’s great to know they exist nonetheless.

Steam Families is available to users of the Steam beta client now, and will likely be rolled out to the general client in the next few months. You can learn more about it on the Steam Families website.

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